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Posted by Robyn Urback / Reviewed on February 18, 2011 / review policy

Fabarnak TorontoFabarnak is not your typical community centre eatery, so don't be fooled by the location. Housed in The 519 Church Street Community Centre, Fabarnak is a social enterprise offering employment opportunities to area residents and great food that's getting noticed all over the city.

Fabarnak TorontoSince opening in October, word has slowly gotten out about the cafe/restaurant's unique menu of sustainable, homemade foods. Everything served at Fabarnak, right down to the ketchup served with the "Cosy" gluten-free elbow pasta with four local cheeses ($12), is made on site. Fabarnak smokes it own meats, makes its own soup stocks, even creates its own evergreen oil for its vegan "Comfy" soup, a tomato bisque with gouda and croustade ($4 or $9, depending on size).

Fabarnak Toronto"My philosophy is that food is either about fantasy or nostalgia," says head chef and director of food services Eric Wood. "It takes us to somewhere we've never been, or reminds us of someplace we'd like to revisit." Wood encourages the staff to push boundaries and try to experiment with new tastes. "It's like you're writing a play," he says. "Constructive conflict is a good thing."

Fabarnak TorontoFabarnak offers both an à la carte and a prix fixe menu ($25), which is always changing. Also on rotation is the soup of the day and the "Square Pegs" meal ($8), which is sort of like a bento box. On the day I came, Square Pegs consisted of a red quinoa salad with celeriac and cranberries, brown basmati rice pilaf, venison curry, and a chocolate walnut brownie. The quinoa was fabulously refreshing and both the curry and pilaf were incredibly flavourful with just the right amount of spice, but the brownie won hands down.

Fabarnak TorontoFabarnak advertises its soup of the day, Square Pegs and other specials daily on its Twitter feed. It's best to pay special attention on "Cupcake Wednesday," where the minds at Fabarnak offer creations such as root beer float cupcakes and maple walnut cupcakes with bacon. All of the profits made at Fabarnak (the name, which, by the way, has no special meaning...and yes, they know what it sounds like) are re-invested in The 519.

Fabarnak TorontoFabarnak TorontoFabarnak TorontoPhotos by Dennis Marciniak



JR / February 18, 2011 at 08:51 am
Illy coffee is an interesting choice for a place trying to embrace a sustainable approach. Probably the furthest you can get from ethical coffee, if such a thing exists.
k / February 18, 2011 at 09:59 am
how is a soup vegan if it has gouda in it?
canmark / February 18, 2011 at 11:35 am
Love the green chairs! Haven't been to this place, but I'm now following them on Twitter. Want to find out more about the cupcakes.
bob / February 18, 2011 at 01:27 pm
Gorgeous... if only the building wasn't brick.
alala\ / February 18, 2011 at 01:28 pm
I'm comfused, it looks like a cafeteria... but it has service right?
KH / February 18, 2011 at 01:30 pm
The food is delicious! Great staff too! :)
gtafunmuscle / February 18, 2011 at 02:09 pm
this is for rich people
Carly / February 18, 2011 at 02:19 pm
I went here for their prix fixe Valentine's Day dinner and it was amazing. Good food + good cause!
Dave / February 18, 2011 at 02:28 pm
Best value in town - food is spectacular... I am looking for a reason to go back.
Pat Anderson / February 18, 2011 at 02:29 pm
cavil, cavil, cavil! Jeeebus.
*I'M* going to try it out!
Tamara / February 18, 2011 at 02:33 pm
I LOVE this restaurant!! The food is absolutely amazing!!
John / February 18, 2011 at 02:45 pm
The building was originally the Granite Club when it was built over a hundred years ago - the renovations have really classed the place up!

The main lobby area of the 519 has a lounge with big leather couches and chairs and the whole building has wifi - it's a great place to hangout and work.
whitengreen replying to a comment from gtafunmuscle / February 18, 2011 at 03:47 pm
So what if it is for rich people?
Kim / February 18, 2011 at 03:59 pm
I've been twice and loved it. Mains are $14. You can start with soup and/or salad, but other than that, there are no sides or extras to raise the price. Hardly a place "for rich people". If you're unemployed, then it might seem expensive, but then everything would be...
gtafunmuscle replying to a comment from whitengreen / February 18, 2011 at 04:01 pm
let's see how long this place will last
Jane / February 26, 2011 at 08:08 am
I was so excited to try this place based on this review and on Foodspotting. I was so disappointed. The waiter was stunned. (Not the guy in the above photo). The food was OKAY. Good value. I will try to be nice and go back!
Mike replying to a comment from Jane / February 28, 2011 at 10:40 am
The place is a social-enterprise, hiring people who have trouble getting jobs elsewhere. Of course the service is going to be off from time to time - you're part of their growth and development.
Bagel with CC replying to a comment from gtafunmuscle / October 20, 2011 at 10:35 am
How is this for rich people? I'd really like to hear your argument. Tell me if I'm wrong, but are you saying that only rich people should be able to eat good, local, well-made food? That the poor should spend their lives eating doughnuts and KD? It sounds like you're more elitist than the "rich people place" you're complaining about. A $10 sandwich is not something I can afford. But an $8 full breakfast? A $5 cup of chowder? These would fill me up and make me feel pretty great too.

I am low-income, and have been even lower income (was on EI for a long time, spent some time on OW.) I've gone to a food bank. At that time, my choices were minimal. It was fucking tough. But I still had a choice -- for my protein, I'd buy a dozen free range eggs for say $4 that are tastier and more substantial. More bang for your buck. A piece of fruit. Oatmeal. Lentils are the cheapest thing going and they are frickin delicious if you know how to cook them well (I recommend going to Little India and buying the spice mixes. Super cheap, and well balanced.)

That's what it comes down to. Your choices. Spend very little on food (and more on...your car? Your cable bill?), eat crap and pay through the nose with a sick body and medical bills. Spend a little bit more, learn to cook a few good meals, be healthy. I'm not saying weirdo Raw Vegan. Just reevaluate your priorities, even when things are tough. Think long-term.

It gets tiring to hear people bitch about this sort of stuff. Are you a child? Do you not know how to do things for yourself, and how to budget?

The most important point --> The thing to rail against is not food prices -- it's skyhigh rent and housing prices.

The irony of the many people in this country that support farmers and rural life, yet want their food to be cheaper and cheaper leaves a bitter taste indeed. Because the people that suffer are the farmers themselves.
David / January 8, 2012 at 12:02 am
This is one of my favorite places in the hood. The food is amazingly delish and pretty reasonable for the quality of food you get. Tips go to the 519 and the staff is awesome...really interested in you, your dietary restrictions! It is a simple, comfortable, healthy and creative menu.
Charlie / March 17, 2012 at 12:31 pm
Food wasn't fresh, and was very weir. I spoke to my Philipino friend and told everything is mfroxen, even there is no leftovers, they freezer them to
seb / November 26, 2013 at 05:54 pm
Great place, great food and great staff! Love love loved it!!!

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